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Run Mixes Space Invaders, Farming, And... Literature?

If nothing else, I have to say that Run – a self-described “series of interlinking segments twisting text into action into strategy” – is admirably eclectic. It begins as a platformer – except with stages made of unabashedly cryptic prose. But then, after you’ve unfolded a few chunks of the sci-fi-tinged tribal tale, Run enters “dream” segments that take the form of – oddly enough – old-school videogames. Impressively, each stage builds these throwbacks on top of each other – so first, it’s just Snake, but before long, you’ll encounter dreams that begin as Scorched Earth, morph into Space Invaders using debris left over from your tank battle, transition into Snake using the remains of both previous games – with Snake’s trail then forming the pathway for a pixelated platformer. Oh, and there’s also a recurring farming level, because why not? So that’s the cool part. Problem is, none of those thing fit particularly well together.

For instance, let’s say you’re playing a dream segment, and you’ve flawlessly hopped, bopped, bleeped, and blooped your way through every game except Snake. There, however, you make one wrong move, creating an impossible platforming path for your tiny retro-chic avatar. Well, that’s a shame. Start over. Do all the bits you already aced again en route to the trouble spot. And if your snake devilishly backstabs your little platformer man a second time? Yeah, it starts to get a bit frustrating. Again, the way the games link up is pretty neat, but it’s more proof-of-concept than utterly compulsive quarter-munching Voltron.

The prose-platformer sections, meanwhile, are pretty basic, and semi-fast-paced side-scrolling antics don’t really lend themselves well to text that makes you want to stop and say, “Wait, what’s that mean, exactly?” To be frank, it all ends up being pretty heavy-handed, too, as soon as you start connecting the dots.

And then there’s the farming, which is actually… er, fine. It’s a rapid-fire minigame mixture of resource and time management that gets frantically exciting as soon as little blue glowy people start trying to eat your food.

There are, in other words, a great many good ideas here. But instead of being carefully stirred and spiced to form a stew with flavor all its own, Run comes off as a haphazard jambalaya of homages. Don’t get me wrong: the browser version – which gives you access to the game in its entirety for free – is still definitely worth a look. And, if you dig it more than I did, the Desura version (which, among other things, allows you to actually save) only asks for a scant $3.99’s worth of coin in its cup. So then, give it a shot. Or take a leap of faith. Or invade its space. Or book some time with it. Etc. Etc.

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Nathan Grayson

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